Rob Denton

Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology

Required reading: What are we going to do about saving salamanders?

The fungi are coming for all the animals I love. Frogs have declined across the world. Bats are disappearing from North America. Even snakes! From the outside looking in, our American biodiversity is a hodgepodge of invasive species surrounding smaller and smaller pockets of protected native flora and fauna.  And now, you may be able to add salamanders to the list. Nooo! Eastern Newt in red eft phase (Notopthalmus viridescens) A recent publication in the journal Science describes the threat of a skin fungus that causes massive die offs of salamanders in Europe. Like the fungal pathogens that have caused declines in […]

Old Man of the Forest

Our department’s graduate students took our fall camping trip over the weekend to southern Ohio, and we were treated to a really special animal: That’s a big timber rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) hiding out under some fall leaves. This endangered species is both secretive and well camouflaged, so you could easily walk right past one of these bad boys even if you were lucky enough to be near one. This particular snake is part of a long-term study to understand the movements and behavior of these snakes in Ohio. A radio transmitter guided the volunteers who track these snakes directly to this individual, and we […]

Small rattles, big personalities

In the dark recesses of Aronoff laboratory, many are surprised to know that our lab has an entire room filled with rattlesnakes. In fact, most visitors don’t believe us until we show them. Behind a plain, gray door lives a group of dusky pigmy rattlesnakes (Sistrurus miliarius barbouri). This group of animals has been one of the main sources of data for our lab’s efforts in studying pit viper venom and how it relates to these animals diets and behavior. This work is currently being done by our principal investigator, Dr. Lisle Gibbs, and current PhD student Sarah Smiley. Right now, […]

A research lab that herps together, works together

Back in August before the semester began, a good portion of the Gibbs lab headed down to Florida for a week of science and reptiles/amphibians. We were visiting some colleagues/collaborators at Florida State University as well as helping Sarah Smiley catch pigmy rattlesnakes for her thesis research.Believe it or not, I’ve just recently downloaded the photos from my camera. Here are some of the interesting things we did and interesting creatures we found: I almost ordered two slices because I didn’t believe that they were “as big as your head”. David and Lisle appreciating the alligators Sarah took us swimming […]

Field Herpetology at The Southwest Research Station (Part 3)

I had a fantastic time teaching at the Southwestern Research Station’s Field Herpetology course this year. We returned to Ohio on Wednesday and definitely needed a couple of days to recover from eight straight days of hiking, teaching, and chasing after reptiles/amphibians. I had a few more pictures of animals and class activities, so we needed a part three to finish things up. Last beautiful day at the research station: The students had an awesome time catching Sonora Mud Turtles (Kinosternon sonoriense) with Dr. Justin Congdon, Professor Emeritus at the University of Georgia. He’s about the coolest guy you could […]

Field Herpetology at the Southwest Research Station (Part 2)

More photos from the 2013 Field Herpetology course! The first female Leopard Lizard (Gambelia wislizenii) I have ever seen hold still: Herpetologist photobomb: Round-tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma modestum): Twin-spotted Rattlesnake (Crotalus priceii): Huge male! Think rattlensakes are mean? Look at this individual hiding his head. Bad lighting, but a beautiful snake. My very first Bunchgrass Lizard (Sceloporus slevini). A tough find all the way up the mountains: Here is some of the variation in Long-nosed Snakes (Rhinocheilus lecontei):

Herpin’ the Florida Panhandle

A few weeks ago I was in beautiful St. George Island, Florida on vacation with my family. A big part of vacations for me is running around searching for creatures. I was able to spend a good amount of time exploring Apalachicola National Forest and Tate’s Hell State Forest. It was fantastic, and I wanted to share some of the species that I turned up. First off, here is a Scarlet Snake (Cemophora coccinea) that was found while night driving. These beautiful snakes spend most of their time under the leaf litter hunting for eggs of other reptiles.  A lovely […]

Salamander Photoshoot

As part of the process of preparing the rewards for my SciFund donators, I’m trying to figure out a good way to get pictures of the salamanders in our lab. I decided to build a small photo studio, inspired by the designs here, and put it in the lab.   Not pictured: the work I should probably be doing. I put this setup together this morning and got some of the animals out to try it out, and the results ended up being better than expected. I am going to try and get profile shots for all of the captive […]